Pyongyang calling: North and South Korean leaders get hotline as stage set for summit

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Pyongyang calling: North and South Korean leaders get hotline as stage set for summit” was written by Justin McCurry in Tokyo, for theguardian.com on Friday 20th April 2018 09.14 Asia/Kolkata

A hotline between the leaders of North and South Korea goes live on Friday as they prepare for next week’s historic summit on the border that has separated their countries for more than six decades.

As preparations for their meeting gather pace, South Korean media reported that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, would talk over the phone before they meet next Friday.

The summit will take place on the southern side of the demilitarised zone, a heavily armed strip of land that that has divided the peninsula since hostilities in the Korean war ended in 1953.

The hotline will connect the South Korean presidential Blue House and North Korea’s state affairs commission, which is headed by Kim, Yonhap news agency said.

Officials from the two countries were due to test the hotline ahead of a conversation between Kim and Moon, although no date has been set for their call.

Located near the village of Panmunjom, the Joint Security Area is the only point along the roughly 250km-long demilitarised zone where North and South Korea stand opposite each other. The site was created at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War as a meeting point to discuss the uneasy truce that ended the conflict.

There are six buildings that straddle the border, three of which are painted United Nations blue, where talks between the two sides occasionally take place. It is also a major tourist destination and visitors can technically cross into North Korea inside the buildings. Outside, there is a raised concrete curb that marks the border.

Before two American soldiers were killed in 1976, the entire area was neutral and personnel from the North and South move freely throughout the zone. Since the murders a hard border bisecting the area has been enforced. In 2017, it was the sight of a dramatic escape by a North Korean soldier who was shot while fleeing to the South.

 

North Korea has not commented on Moon’s claim on Thursday that Kim would not demand the withdrawal of US troops from the Korean peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons during his meeting with Donald Trump in late May or early June.

“North Korea is expressing a commitment to a complete denuclearisation,” Moon, a left-leaning liberal who has long favoured engagement with the North, told media executives. “They are not presenting a condition that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of the American troops in South Korea … North Korea is only talking about the end of a hostile policy against it and then a security guarantee for the country.”

North Korea could offer some indication of what it expects in return for denuclearisation later on Friday at a plenary session of the central committee of the ruling workers’ party.

The state-run KCNA news agency said the committee would discuss “policy issues of a new stage” in response to the current “important historic period”.

Some analysts speculated the body would revise Kim’s dual “byongjin” policy of pursuing economic and nuclear development before his summits with Moon and Trump.

“There is a high possibility that North Korea could unveil a new policy line, revising its byongjin policy at the plenary session,” Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, told Yonhap. “A new line will likely contain North Korea expressing its willingness to join denuclearisation talks and resolve to improve ties with the South, the US and Japan, as well as to seek peace and coexistence.”

Kim’s apparent concession on US troop withdrawal has taken many by surprise. Traditionally, North Korea has justified its nuclear programme as a necessary counter to Washington’s “hostile policy” of basing tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan, and guaranteeing its north-east Asian allies’ security through its nuclear umbrella.

With just a week to go before Kim and Moon become the first North and South Korean leaders to meet in more than a decade, officials were trying to ensure the summit would proceed without incident or embarrassment.

Earlier this week they met to discuss details, including plans to broadcast live TV coverage of the leaders’ shaking hands at the start of their talks, which will take place at the Peace House on the southern side of the border village of Panmunjom.

It will be the first time a North Korean leader has visited the South since the end of the Korean war, and only the third time any South or North Korean leaders have met.

The two previous inter-Korea summits, held in 2000 and 2007 in Pyongyang, involved the then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

Moon and Kim are expected to discuss a formal end to hostilities between their countries, 65 years after the Korean war ended with an armistice, but not a peace treaty.

Trump told reporters this week the Koreas “have my blessing” to secure a peace treaty and bring an end to the conflict.

Six senior South Korean officials will accompany Moon to the summit, including his chief of staff, spy chief, national security adviser and unification, defence and foreign ministers, a presidential spokesman said.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Pyongyang calling: North and South Korean leaders get hotline as stage set for summit | NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).